Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lexington Legends Update: April 20th, 2013

APR 20th, 2013-Heard late evening yesterday that 1B Mark Threlkeld is getting his cast removed this weekend, and is due to return to the team early next week.

Threlkeld's cast is coming off significantly earlier than expected, and he will need a little time to test the waters where his forearm and wrist is concerned, but isn't expected to have significant issues once he hits the field.

Antonio showing a characteristic
(but controlled) aggressive swing
This may push current 1B Fred Ford back to RF, but would lead to quite a few less at-bats for Ethan Chapman, who is batting only .216 in 51 at-bats but also is second on the team with 9 SB. Playing Chapman off the bench might help him recover his batting average but could hurt the team in terms of on-base speed and runs. Plus, Chapman seems to cause a few headaches when he's on; he's an aggressive and smart base-runner who makes the most of his scoring opportunities.

In further updates:

3B Michael Antonio is tied for the team lead in BA but has drawn only one walk and scored just 2 runs. Expect this to turn around significantly, though he will also need to keep the Ks to a minimum.

SS Raul Mondesi is showing some pop, or at least enough to drive in 12 runs and lead the team in that category. Mondesi is also flashing enough glove to upholster a living room set, but he'll need to learn when not to attempt the play as well.

Gore about to burn up a baseline
LF Terrance Gore is...well, Terrance Gore. He's scored 12 runs, stolen 11 bases (including back-to-back swipes of 2nd and 3rd on more than one occasion), and covering approximately half our zip code in the field. He is tied with Antonio for the team lead in BA, and I expect that average to climb slowly in the next couple of weeks. I tend to gush over players like this; I won't apologize for it. If you haven't seen him play, why the heck not?

Chapman in right field

OF Ethan Chapman has been filling in at RF while Threlkeld has been out and Ford has been covering first (and covering it well). While Threlkeld's return will likely put Chapman on the bench, I wouldn't want to see his AB become limited; as mentioned, he's a valuable asset in the lineup. He's all-out in the field, runs the bases like a fugitive, hustles constantly...why wouldn't you want that?

Gallagher talks it over with Brickhouse

C Cameron Gallagher is on the pace I expected from him, while handling the staff as well as you'd like to see from a top catching prospect in your system. Of course, while Salvador Perez is in KC, whoever comes up behind him will likely be staying behind him. Barring another Perez injury, Gallagher may ultimately be trade bait or split time between catcher, first and DH. The latter would be preferable.

3B Adrian Morales may not be an offensive standout in this lineup, but he's someone I'd like to see more often. He appears to be a no-nonsense, blue-collar type, and we need more of those guys in baseball. In the coming weeks he's going to have to scrap for at-bats with IFs Nicholas Cuckovich and Yowill Espinal. Morales can cover second or third, which will help his cause, but Espinal could as well, and Espinal may have the better arm at third.

Arteaga at the plate
2B Humberto Arteaga is floundering at the plate, with 8 hits in 58 at-bats. Add to this no extra-base hits and 2 walks against 13 K and you've got an offensive offense. However, as stated previously, his glove is enough to get him in the lineup, and will continue to be. He will likely be the odd man out in late-inning pinch-hitter situations, with Morales subbing in for him.

As for pitchers (along with a few fun facts):

RHP Daniel Stumpf
LHP Daniel Stumpf has yet to allow an earned run in 10 innings (2 starts), striking out 9 and walking two. Batters are hitting .167 against him, thus far.

LHP Scott Alexander has basically been lights out in relief; in 4 games (13 innings) he's allowed a paltry 3 hits, while striking out a batter per inning and walking five. Opposing batters have one lone unearned run to show for their efforts. Bit o' Trivia: his brother, Stuart, pitched in the Marlins organization from 2004-2009.

LHP Colin Rodgers (yet another lefty) spun a stunner of a game yesterday. Rodgers went 7 shutout innings against Greenville, allowing only 2 hits, striking out 6 and walking one. In two of his three starts for Lexington this year, he's pitched near-scoreless ball (April 7th @ Augusta-5 IP, 3 H, 2 unearned runs; April 19th, as mentioned above). For those of you who weren't aware, Rodgers was drafted in the 3rd round last year out of high school. Definitely one to watch, this year.

RHP Cory Hall (Canadian, and thus a player I follow closely) has allowed 2 ER in 10 relief innings, so far. Hall played for Canada in the 2006 World Junior Baseball Championships, earning a bronze medal in the process. Not too shabby.

Righty Daniel Hernandez warms up to go in

RHP Daniel Hernandez is sporting a tidy 1.86 ERA in 9 2/3 relief innings, showing power pitcher potential. On April 10th at home vs Asheville, he went 2 2/3 innings, allowing 2 runs and walking three but sending five back to the bench on strikes. He K'd 3 in 2 shutout innings, last night. A 12th round draftee in 2010 out of Miami-Dade, he may prove to be a later-round steal (though he would be the last person to say that, being the modest and unassuming type).

Have to say it: he's a Brick.....HOOOOUUUSE!

RHP Bryan Brickhouse has been a solid starting presence, though the victim of defensive miscues on two of his three starts. In eight runs allowed thus far, only 5 were earned. One thing that catches my eye is his marked ground-ball tendencies (2.44 ground-outs for every one fly/airout). Brick struck out 7 in 4 innings @ Augusta on the 5th, and has kept his team in the game in all three of his starts, so far. He's a third round pick from 2011 out of high school, and was ranked KC's 17th best prospect going into 2012 by

RHP Christian “Toolman” Binford (Home Improvement?...Anyone?...) is also averaging a K per inning, and has done well spacing out opponents' hits (whatever that means; Like pitchers choose when to allow them and when to not?). The 6'6” righty gets lots of leverage off the mound and can put a fastball in on hitters before they realize it. A 30th round pick in 2011 out of high school, he threw a no-hitter in his very first HS start as a freshman in 2008.

That's it, for now. More photos to come, soon. Also, be sure to tune in to Kings of Kauffman for lots more Royals major and minor league updates, covered by better writers than me. Of course, they've been kind enough to take me in this year, so many of my updates will be on their site. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lexington Legends Update; April 15th, 2013

APR 15th, 2013-As we're just around a week and a half into the season, I thought I'd weigh in with some of my (humble) observations on our latest incarnation of the Legends:

Fred Ford, 1B

I don't know how many folks knew it, but Freddie can swing the lumber. He's a tall, rangy guy, so there's a bit more of a strike zone to cover for him. However, he makes consistent, hard contact, and will definitely he a reliable and steady power source for this team as the year progresses.

In a short conversation with Fred, he mentioned that while he played first base in college, he was drafted as an outfielder. Considering the ease with which he has handled first, it doesn't seem that he'll struggle defensively. Add to his experience the fact that he handles grounders with ease and can move well laterally, and you have a first sacker with significant potential. He has gotten himself tied up on short hops on a couple of occasions, but I wouldn't expect this to be anymore than a rare occurrence.

Humberto Arteaga, 2B

Bumped to second when Raul Mondesi advanced to A ball, Arteaga has more than enough range to cover the keystone. As I stated before, he could easily handle short at this and higher levels, though he doesn't quite have Mondesi's outrageous range (then again, who does?). His glove is far steadier than Mondesi's at this stage, and overall is probably the more reliable gloveman as of right now. At the plate, we haven't seen a lot from him yet, but his true value lies in his glove; whatever he does offensively (at this level) is just gravy. However, as he moves up the chain he will have to show some sort of offense if he's ever to be more than a late-inning defensive replacement and occasional starter. I see him developing into enough of a hitter that he can start at second and not cost his team anything significant in the runs department. Indeed, if he develops into a slap hitter and can draw the odd walk, he would be a great bottom-of-the-order place setter (maybe 8th?).

Raul Mondesi, SS

Not sure I could say anymore than I've already said about this kid. As long as he can rein it in a bit and cut those errors down, he'll probably make the majors based on glovework alone. He's definitely that good.

As for the bat: to look at him, you wouldn't expect much pop out of his bat. Indeed, he'll not be much in the way of power, anytime soon. Don't be too surprised, though, if he fills out a bit and becomes a reliable doubles-hitting batter in the two slot, when he makes it to the top.

Glove-wise, he has a tendency to chase any grounder between Arteaga and the third-base seats. Because of this, you're going to see a lot of errors made on balls he probably shouldn't have chased. He's got more than enough arm to play at short, and consequently he sometimes appears to be 'flipping' the ball to first. He'll be able to get by this way, for now, but when he starts facing faster and better runners he's going to have to plant and throw far more often than he does right now. He's only 17; this will all come with time.

Mike Antonio, 3B

Antonio covers third well and has adequate range to either side. He can also go back on popups quickly. The problem that I've seen with him is that he sometimes seems to have trouble making the throw to first, especially early in the game. I don't know if this is an uncommon thing for him, or if he genuinely does have difficulty making the throw, but I'm taking a 'wait and see' attitude about if. After all, we just started the season.

At the plate, he's an aggressive swinger with less arm extension than most hitters I'm used to seeing. He looks, at first glance, like an 'all-or-nothing' type swinger, but he makes consistent, hard contact, and runs hard on the bases. He looks to be a pull hitter at this stage, so I'd like to see if he can go opposite field with any sort of regularity. Until then, I still like what I've seen from him. He's been one of the few steady hitters in this lineup, thus far.

Cam Gallagher, C

Terrific glove, very good arm. This past week he threw out a Greenville steal attempt at second without bothering to stand up first, so that sort of got my attention. He controls the game well, communicates well with his pitchers, and does it all in a quiet, 'lead by example' sort of way.

At the plate, he makes frequent contact. He's shown a fair amount of pop with four doubles in 9 games, but has yet to hit a homer. He's very still and well-balanced at bat, and there's very little (if any) movement before the swing. He's been in the clean-up slot so far, and though he has only 2 RBI to show for it it's certainly not because of his performance.

Terrance Gore, LF

Wow. Just, wow. Easily one of the fastest players in professional baseball (yeah, I said that), Gore covers more real estate than an army of groundskeepers. He's a slap hitter at the plate, which is what he should be, and makes the utmost use of his plus-plus speed at every opportunity. He's a threat to steal whenever he gets on base, will easily take the extra base on a passed ball or long single, and is likely to score from second on most singles. Massively built for his 5'7" frame, he told me that "speed sort of runs in my family". It's easy to believe; on speed alone, he's a major-leaguer. Of course, we all know it takes more than one tool to make it to The Show.

At the plate, he shows good bat speed and doesn't ever try to do too much with the pitch he's given. If it takes the infielder more than one hop to get to the ball, his throw is probably going to be late. He's already bunted for 2 or 3 base hits, and with a little bunting practice could probably do it 30-40 times a year, with little difficulty. I've noticed tha
t the opposing third baseman always plays in on Gore early in the count; it's only in a two-strike count that he moves back to the dirt of the infield. For those of you who saw last year's Legends, I can tell you that he is definitely faster than Deshields. And we all know what HE did, last year.

Two more things about Gore and his stint with the Legends: if he stays here all year, he'll swipe 100 bags. No doubt. Secondly, I don't expect him to be here in June. Either way, and even with half a season in AA NW Arkansas, I still expect him to swipe 70+ bags with little effort.

Bubba Starling, CF

If anyone on this roster has struggled with the transition to Class A, it's this kid.

As a defender, he's got all the tools you'd hope to have in a player at any position. He's got a great arm, covers a lot of ground in center, and catches everything he can reach. He has made a couple of errors in the field this year, but there's a little more to it than just a number on a page.

After the trade of Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery, Starling essentially became the de facto top hitting prospect in the Royals organization. That's a lot of pressure to put on a kid. Through about two weeks of ball, he has struggled mightily at the plate; in 36 at-bats, he's struck out 15 times. On a number of occasions he's let his frustration get the best of him, dropping more f-bombs than he has base hits, and at least twice he's done this less than 10 feet from children sitting in the first few rows (sorry, Bubba, but it's true). My understanding is that he's since been counselled on this matter, and I really don't think it's going to be a problem in the future. He has shown his frustration both after at-bats and in the field between pitches, noticeably. Given the expectations placed on him, I can see how he (or anyone else) could let it get to him. One other thing which I believe: those moments should not define who he is, in the eyes of fans and team personnel. This is not who he is, in my humble opinion.

Ethan Chapman, RF

Here's another kid who's done his thing with little fanfare. Chapman is hitting only .176 in 34 at-bats, but I think there's more to see here.

First off, he hustles from the moment he steps onto the field. He has been on base only 8 times (six hits, two walks) but he's picked up four steals in the process. Always an aggressive baserunner, Chapman's instincts help to turn a single or a walk into a potential RBI for the batter behind him. He just looks like he seriously wants to beat the other team; some players wear that attitude on their sleeve, and he's certainly one of them.

In right, he runs down every ball he's expected to reach and a few that he should be out of range. He strikes me as a baseball rat, the kind of guy who plays his heart out every game, and when the game's over he's looking forward to the next one. That's my kind of player.

Adrian Morales, UT

Admittedly, I've only seen him play twice now, and that was at second base. But aside from the fact that Morales looks like he could make a name for himself in the octagon just as easily as he could on the diamond, this kid is not messing around when he hits the field. I saw him lay a hit on Greenville's catcher a few days ago that would have put most guys on the trainer's table. Fortunately, no one was hurt (badly), but even after being thrown out and driving through the Drive's catcher, he shot him a long glare on the way back to the Legends dugout. You can see just a little bit of a chip on that shoulder, and I have to say: I like it. If/when he gets his chance on the field, it will be interesting to see how much he affects the team's play, attitude-wise. Players like this can give your lineup a bit of a swagger they might otherwise lack, something that wouldn't exactly hurt our play.

That's all, for now. Our Legends roll back into town Thursday to face the Drive again, sort of a rematch from last week's series. I'm looking forward to more from what should be one of the most impressive teams in the South Atlantic League, this year.